In God’s Country


Desert sky
Dream beneath a desert sky
The rivers run but soon run dry
We need new dreams tonight

Desert rose
Dreamed I saw a desert rose
Dress torn in ribbons and in bows
Like a siren she calls to me

Sleep comes like a drug
In God’s Country
Sad eyes, crooked crosses
In God’s Country

Set me alight
We’ll punch a hole right through the night
Everyday the dreamers die
See what’s on the other side

She is liberty
And she comes to rescue me
Hope, faith, her vanity
The greatest gift is gold

Sleep comes like a drug
In God’s Country
Sad eyes, crooked crosses
In God’s Country

Naked flame
She stands with a naked flame
I stand with the sons of Cain
Burned by the fire of love
Burned by the fire of love

In God’s Country – U2

“Fortunate, indeed, is the man who takes exactly the right measure of himself and holds a just balance between what he can acquire and what he can use.”

Peter Latham

When I left for the woods and 5 days of camping, I felt I had pared down what I brought to just the necessities. What I found was I brought much more than was needed to have a successful trip. Such is the learning curve of my future plans and even life itself. The list of needs verses wants is so out of balance as to be like a slap in the face to those who are willing to see the truth. My cheek hurts.

Day 1: My first campsite was at Big Pleasant Pond in the Jo-Mary Forest. As it was labor day weekend, most campsites where already taken and I was forced to take what I could get. This site had no water view or frontage, no privacy from the road, but any day in the woods away from society as a whole is still a respite and I made the best of it. Besides, it was just a short walk across the road and through some trees to the pond.

Brandy leads the way to the pond
What a view!

As I worked through what I had with me a strong sense of calm crept into my mind, a feeling of being in God’s Country, whatever that may mean to each individual that has stood in this same spot before me. Nature is a paradox unto itself, one moment safe and serene, the next painful or deadly. More on that later.

For now it was time to enjoy the sun, cook some food and just bask in the glory of the natural surroundings. This was the first time Brandy was off leash and she proved to be a truly loyal and trustworthy friend as she never ventured more than 100 feet or so away from me. And boy did she take advantage of the running space!

Go Brandy, Go!

This first day was spent trying to settle down from the pace of life at work, forcing myself to let go the ever present urge to hurry up. Forever are we pushed to do more with less, the constant thrust of efficiency jammed down our throats by those that control our 9 to 5. I understand competition, I get the rush to completion, yet I can’t help but feel like it’s all for naught. Is what I give up in the push for money worth the loss? I’ll sleep on this and ponder.

“What I dream of is an art of balance, of purity and serenity devoid of troubling or depressing subject matter – a soothing, calming influence on the mind, rather like a good armchair which provides relaxation from physical fatigue.”

Henri Matisse

Day 2: OK, it’s Maine after all and it rains a lot in the fall. I woke at 5 am to the sound of heavy rain hitting the top of my tent, but nary a drop came through to settle on me or Brandy. This tent was worth every dollar I spent. Make the most of every day I say and out we go into all mother nature can throw at us. Brandy does her business as I make breakfast.

The staple of American breakfast…Bacon and Eggs!

I’m glad there was a canopy over this table as I have not purchased my awning yet for my Jeep. Hickory bacon and over easy eggs with toast on the side, who could ask for more on a damp and cool morning. Hunger satiated, Brandy and I take a walk in the rain down the twisty roads of this forest and concern ourselves with play for the remainder of this day.

Day 3: We arise to no rain, but no sun either. Oh well, I’ll take what I can get! After breakfast I decide to change campsites, as most people have left for home, and I have many better sites to choose from. I check in at the Jo-Mary checkpoint and decide on Johnson Pond #5 for the remainder of my trip. Here’s where the trouble begins.

Brandy and I settle in at the site and set up camp. This site is very shady and this time of year it’s also very cool. No matter, the site is very pleasant and the water is close.

All set up!

Let’s take a look at the pond!

Jo-Mary Mt behind Johnson Pond

As we explore our surroundings I notice a familiar sight…BALD FACE HORNETS!!

This nest is as big as my head!

I have great respect for these insects as they are very aggressive if you venture too close to their nest. They will swarm out and chase you down and you cannot outrun them! Generally they will leave you alone if you stay away from their home, and I gave them a wide berth with no reaction. Live and let live I say.

Honda 2200 watt generator
My 37 quart ARB 12 volt refrigerator

I fire up my Honda generator for some power for charging the batteries and power tools to work on my Jeep. Yes, I worked on my day off for the sake of my future plans. As the day winded down I made dinner and had a few glasses of wine.

“Canned biscuits” from Pillsbury cooked beside the pork tenderloin on the grill
Pork tenderloin at a perfect 155 degrees!

It’s funny how much better food tastes when you are camping. I felt like royalty as I consumed my meal and drank my wine, free was I to act silly and laugh at the disturbed look on Brandy’s face as I stumbled down to the pond to wash up after dinner. This is where trouble starts!

Twilight at Johnson Pond

In I went! That’s right, off the rocks and into the pond, but not on purpose! Within 5 seconds Brandy had jumped in and was at my side as if to rescue me or to see if this was part of camping! I laughed so hard my side hurt as I removed all my clothes and made the best of the situation and washed up before going back to camp. No one but God to see me in this country as I listened to the squish of my waterlogged shoes while walking up the hill. Time for bed I say as I climb into my new sleeping bag and cover Brandy with her blanket for a sleep like no other.

Day 4: Sadness overcomes me as I wake, sadness for this will be the last full day in the woods on this trip. A partly sunny day awaits as I grab my camera and walk with Brandy along the roads. A giant dragonfly lands on my shirt, then rests on an overhead limb just for me. It was as big as my hand!

The stillness and lack of man made sounds has a profound effect on ones soul, a revitalization of sorts reflected in a slower heart rate, relaxed muscles and lower blood pressure. Every nuance of sound usually drowned out by the cacophony of crushing noise seems deafening, almost overpowering to the senses. I can hear the rush of air as this insect moves it’s wings, every step on the road crunching as rubber meets dirt. I call out to my dog and she rushes to me, eager to please. Who could ask for more than this I ask myself?

Brandy loving life

This day was spent in the pursuit of happiness, reluctant to let go of all that is free and beautiful in this world. As I packed much of my gear this afternoon I felt a great loss. Back to the grind of daily life I must, for now, or fail to achieve my goal of independence I shall. Balance in all things, hard work begets hard play.

Day 5: The shit hit’s the fan!

It’s 3 am when I start the coffee and Brandy runs off to do her business. I fold up the rooftop tent and prepare the other items to be put away in the trailer. My goal today is to explore some of the many roads in this forest and take as many pictures as I can even though it’s going to be a gloomy day. But first, let’s have some pain!

I hear Brandy yelping in the distance, then see her running towards me at full pace. As she approaches I feel something hitting my face and realize they are hornets and she is covered with them! There must be 50 or more on her back and I sweep them off with my hands to try and save her from the onslaught. I grab her by the collar and her tail and throw her in the Jeep, then run around to the other side and get in. I feel the stings on my back as I rub on the seat back to crush them, then drive off as my windshield is peppered with them. She is whining and so am I as the pain sets in.

I can’t believe my luck as there are no hornets in the Jeep with us, and I try to assess how bad Brandy was stung. As best I can tell she has more than 15 stings and I have at least 8 to 10, with 2 on my hand. I know she may go into shock with that many and I know Benadryl will help with her bodies reaction. I always keep certain medications with me in the woods for times like this so I give her and I a dose and drive back to the campsite to check on the situation.

The hornets are gone now so I pack up the rest of my gear and head out. Brandy seems OK given the situation, and I try to make the best of this day. She stopped whining but she seems very tired. I’m sure it still hurts as my back is on fire, but she eats her food and wags her tail so I think she will be fine. I drive to the top of a high ridge as the sun comes up and we enjoy the morning as best we can.

As I leave the forest from the Hedgehog checkpoint, I stop in a field near Greenville Maine. As I look back I feel no resentment or disappointment because of our plight, no anger for the pain we will endure over the next few days. Nature is good and bad, evil and saintly, beautiful and dangerous, just like life itself. One cannot have one without the other or things would have no contrast to measure them by. The morning mist on the pond cannot be overshadowed by the sting without forgetting the image, without letting go all that is good in this world. Never let go or give in, or the sting will take it’s toll.

Goodbye, I will miss you

6 thoughts on “In God’s Country

  1. Wish you had given me advance notice that you were coming my way south of Greenville! I’ve been laid up for a while. Could have cracked a couple of cold ones by another lake! I hope Brandy is still ok! I have NEVER gotten along with bees of any kind. You may leave them alone, but you never know when a bear will knock on the hive!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow! It was all going so well, and you and Brandy seemed to be having a good relaxing break. Poor Brandy, and poor you John. Good to hear that you are both repairing well though. I can almost smell that bacon from here. Food always tastes so much better cooked, and eaten when camping.
    I hope it’s not too long before you can get out and about again. I look forward to reading more.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ouch, John that was quite a ferocious way to end what sounds like a peaceful camping trip. I hope you and Brandy are both recovering. You’re right, nature is unpredictable, gives us both the good and the not so good. But I say any time in nature is time well spent

    Liked by 1 person

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